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Why We're Loving: Zach Lieberman, artist

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Lieberman uses code to create art. Google recently commissioned him to create a piece of work for its DevArt project as part of the Digital Revolution exhibition at the Barbican.

What did you create for the show? Play the World is essentially an instrument where, when you press a note, it finds that note in a radio station from around the world. It sounds musical but also a bit cacophonous, as if you are tuning the radio, and there are hidden connections in what you find.

Do you think coders are artists? I think code is a medium that can be used for artistic purposes like any medium – writing, drawing, video, even the mail. Code is a medium for logical expression, which means it’s suitable for logical operations such as ordering a list or calculating a sum. The key for using it artistically is to overcome that. A lot of art, I think, is about trying to express things that are inexpressible, that are not logical, that are hard to quantify – this creates a tension that I find quite interesting.

How did you get into making art with code? I was a fine-art student and I had to find a job. I weaselled my way into web design, really bluffing it, until the economy crashed (this was Web 1.0). It was then that I discovered people who were doing animation with code. From that first moment I saw something move across the screen from some equation that I had typed, I was hooked.

Of which pieces of work are you most proud? I’m proud of Drawn, which takes a drawing and brings it to life. For me, it’s really magical – having some way to take ink and bring it to life was really touching. I am proud of the EyeWriter, where we partnered with the paralysed graffiti artist Tempt One and made tools for him to draw graffiti using his eye movements. I am also proud of OpenFrameworks, which is a tool and community I helped co-found to help other artists make work using these tools. This past year, I helped start the School for Poetic Computation, where we teach and promote this kind of art-making.

Where do you get your inspiration? A lot of what I do is ask simple "what if" questions, usually around a gesture or feeling. I think finding time to ask good questions is the key to making rewarding work. My stepdaughter, who is almost five, asks a ton of questions and is reminding me to see the world in new ways.

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